Friday, June 1, 2007

Planet Vulcan

Is this a “Tabloid Press” planet, or one of the astronomical community’s honest mistakes?


By: Vanessa Uy


Sometimes a currently held wisdom of astronomy is redefined over time, usually due to recent advances in science. The advancing perihelion of the planet Mercury; was once believed to be caused by as a yet undiscovered planet. Astronomers at that time dubbed the planet Vulcan after the Roman god of fire and due to the planets supposedly close proximity to the sun- closer than Mercury in fact. Even though Vulcan was never directly observed by optical and/or radio telescopes, astronomers at the time were confident of Vulcan’s existence due to its effect on Mercury’s orbit.

It was later proven that the advancing perihelion of the planet Mercury’s orbit is a consequence of Albert Einstein’s “General Relativity” theory. Thus the existence of Vulcan was ruled out. Vulcan was just a fictitious planet that was accidentally “created” by the astronomical community back then to describe a phenomena that’s not yet fully understood at the time.

2 comments:

Michelle said...

I've saw a documentary on the "Discovery Channel" 10 or 12 years ago about Turkish astronomers who discovered the "Major Asteroids" in the asteroid belt who we're told by the astronomical community at that time to adapt a more "Western" type of clothing so that their findings will be taken more seriously by the West. Have you come upon something like this?

Vanessa said...

Dear Michelle, Please check out the International Research Center for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA) at http://www3.ircica.org or check out the book "History of Ottoman Astronomy, and Literature" which is composed of two volumes, Prepared by Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu et.al.. The premise of this book goes that the history of Ottoman Science has been neglected for far too long due to lack of a well documented inventory of Ottoman scientific literature. This book is one of the first measures to address the said problem. To me, the content of the book seems like sourced mostly from British private rare book collectors.